After a Hurricane Comes a…Meh.

We're almost not homeless!

We’re almost not homeless!

I remember this same weekend last year like it was yesterday. I woke up early that Saturday morning with an ungodly hangover and suffered through a bus ride to New Jersey for my 10-year high school reunion. A few girls asked what I thought about the impending storm and I shrugged it off with an “Ehhhhh, Irene wasn’t toooooo bad.” The next day, I checked the MegaBus site compulsively for updates about my scheduled departure since it seemed that every other transit line was canceling trips, even though no rain had fallen yet. I met Lauren at the diner because she happened to be home from New Orleans the same weekend. More hurricane talk, more “I mean, it’ll be fiiiiine?”. She offered some encouraging information about the power of mold bombs immediately after flooding.

Despite secretly wishing for my bus to be canceled (I was hoping for an extra day or two at home), it took off, the last bus to make it out of New Jersey in advance of Sandy. Unbeknownst to me at the time was the fact that, had I not made it to that bus, I would have been stranded for weeks. In the dark, in the cold, with little access to the outside world or any perspective on the carnage up and down my beautiful, beloved Jersey Shore. All the mold bombs in the world couldn’t have helped our charming little bungalow, after the island was off-limits for three weeks.

It seems like this week, every media outlet is offering retrospective stories – about where we are, about what we’ve learned, about what progress there’s been, but mainly about the lack thereof. A majority of our neighborhood’s houses sit vacant and gutted. Whole tracts of land on the Barrier Island where houses once stood have become open space. I hope those cringe-inducing Stronger Than The Storm commercials are played in marketing classes for years to come to highlight glossed-over ineptitude and the woeful decline of jingle writing as an art.

My mom has fought tooth and nail to claw her way through a bureaucratic system whose goal seems to be keeping funding from the people who need it most. A year ago, it warmed your heart to see all the support pouring in as millions of dollars racked up; it seemed implausible that my widowed mother would have to pay out of pocket to fix our only home. In the months that have separated us from the most destructive storm I hope we’ll ever see, she’s gotten a loan and used it to pay for a brand new house, but that’s money that needs to be repaid. The state’s RREM program has yet to disburse any money from what I can tell and they keep moving the goal posts for homeowners who are still waiting a year later. Continue reading

Sea Glass and Other Metaphors

Some of my personal collection

In 1998, my eighth-grade classmates deemed me “Most Creative” in our yearbook superlatives. To a 13-year-old, this held little meaning. I had never really thought about it until this summer when I took a creative thinking class as an elective in my graduate Integrated Marketing Communication program.

While a few assignments brought me back to my sorority crafting days (which my little will tell you were not very successful), I learned a great deal about the creative side of marketing and where I might fit in within the industry. Continue reading

Maybe Zach Braff was Right (but I still think Garden State sucks)

For the record, I still dislike this movie.

Way back when, a friend dragged me along to see ‘Garden State.’ As a happy, well-adjusted college student in 2004, it really rubbed me the wrong way. I had never grappled with struggle or sadness and had nothing but pride for my home state. Even now, I still don’t really understand what Zach Braff’s character’s upbringing had been like.  He hosted Saturday Night and, in his monologue, called Garden State his “love letter to New Jersey,” which I still don’t understand. Had such a love letter come to me in the mail, I’d return to sender. What I found so offensive about it was that he used the state’s official nickname as the title, as if to speak for all New Jersey’s residents. Little did I know what name-usurping, stereotyping train wreck was coming next. But I digress.

For a while, Garden State became one of those “statement” movies – you know, people would casually toss it into their list of favorites to show how deep, intellectual and edgy they were. For months after its debut, people plastered quotes from it all over their (about to seriously date myself here) AIM profiles and away messages. However, one stuck out at me as being profoundly sad. A grammar school friend whose parents had divorced when we were in college used it and even though we weren’t close anymore, it made me so sad that this snippet of dialogue spoke to her so much when we had shared such happy childhoods. I never really understood the concept of it until recently, faced with the loss of a parent and the prospect of our home being up for sale. Continue reading

Tea for Two

Tuckerton's 217 East Main (photo courtesy of the Press of Atlantic City)

Holidays like Mother’s Day always leave me feeling a little miffed. We all know they’re completely fabricated in an attempt to price-gouge flowers and trinkety jewelry, but everyone works themselves into a tizzy over them anyway. Valentine’s Day is definitely the worst example of such a day – completely unnecessary. I’m not trying to diss moms at all; they should be treated like Mother’s Day is everyday, but a little extra appreciation every May doesn’t hurt. Continue reading